Cold Case Justice Initiative to Hold Panel at National Press Club Dec. 9

December 3, 2014

The Cold Case Justice Initiative (CCJI) at the College of Law will delve into the current state of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act during a panel at the National Press Club (NPC) on Dec. 9.

Janis McDonald, left, and Paula Johnson, directors of the Cold Case Justice Initiative

Janis McDonald, left, and Paula Johnson, directors of the Cold Case Justice Initiative

For this signature event, which is part of the ongoing Greenberg Speaker Series, a group of experts, and families affected by the violence of the civil rights era, has been assembled and includes: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas; Thelma Edwards, Ollie Gordon and Airickca Gordon-Taylor, cousins of Emmett Till (Edwards is the daughter of Moses Wright. Till was kidnapped at gunpoint from the Wright home in Mississippi); Darlene Nichelle Morris-Newbill, great-granddaughter of Frank Morris, who was slain by suspected members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1964; Paul Delaney, former editor of The New York Times; Paula Johnson and Janis McDonald, Syracuse University law professors and co-directors of the CCJI; and moderator CNN Anchor Fredricka Whitfield.

The event starts at 8 a.m. in the main ballroom of the NPC.

The Emmett Till Act was named for a 14-year-old teenage boy tortured and brutally murdered in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman in Money, Miss. Passed in a bipartisan vote in 2008, the act requires the Justice Department and the FBI to devote intensive investigations during a 10-year period to identify and address the pre-1969 unsolved Civil Rights Era homicides. To date, there has been only one State of Alabama-initiated plea bargain conviction under the act.

The act will expire in 2017 unless extended by Congress. Despite the intent of Congress, there has never been a full accounting of all of those who were murdered or disappeared during the Civil Rights Era. The panel will address several questions: How can justice be accomplished? What legal or legislative recourse remains for the victims and their families? Should Congress consider extending the duration and expanding the scope of the act? Has there been enough oversight by Congress?